Shellcracker Fishing – The 2017 Bite Is Not Over!

Florida Shellcrackers & No Pressure

In my last article I mentioned how the lakes in Florida were warming up faster than normal this year and that the Shellcrackers would be coming in early to spawn, which did happen. During the period of March 18 thru March 25 the Shellcrackers were at their peak this year, however I planned my two day fishing trip for the first week of April, hoping to catch them during the week before the full moon.

Were The ShellCrackers Done and Gone Already

Well it was only a week away from flying to Florida and getting in two days of fishing, trying to catch a few of those “kings of the bluegills”. Then I got that call from my fishing buddy that you never want to get, the Shellcrackers are done and gone. Okay, that’s not great news i said, but you’re talking to one of the best fishermen you know and I’m still coming, we will fish Tuesday and Wednesday so be ready to catch fish.

Well I got there (Tavares Florida) early Tuesday and of course it stormed all day dropping over 4 inches of rain, we did not even get out of the house, which meant we only had one day to find and catch them. The next day we headed out around 8am and found no one on the lake, in the rivers, or even in the channels fishing. We started by working my fishing partner’s top 3 Shellcracker fishing holes snagging only one small Shellcracker, now what? After a little brainstorming we decided to try something different, fishing the weeds instead of the lily pads, which is typically where we find the Crappies. Ed’s comment was I have never found Shellcrackers there, but lets check it out.

Finding The Bluegill Bully – Shellcrackers

Well we headed across Lake Harris to fish the weeds and for the first 20 minutes never caught a fish. Then we saw a few fish working the surface down 50 yards just outside the weedline, which had to be Bluegills (Copperheads or Shellcrackers), so we move down and again could not get a bite. Next we decided to move into the weeds to see if they were in there and WOW did we catch Shellcrackers, one right after another. We were using our favorite bait the Freshwater Shrimp, once we ran out we purchased worms to avoid wasting time to catch more shrimp. What we found is that the Shellcrackers were not as aggressive with worms, but the action was still great.

We even had a run of Copperheads.

ShellCrackers In Action

Here I use both my camera and my new Gopro. Note, I’m still learning on using the GoPro and had it pointed too hi. But it does give you more of what is going on behind the scene.

Camera Action!

GoPro Action!

Catching Shellcrackers – Florida Shellcrackers Start The 2017 Season Early

Florida inland water temperatures are warmer than normal

Due to warmer than normal water temperatures the 2017 fishing season has started off in full swing, producing early catches and larger fish.

Fishing Crappies & Shellcrackers

This year we have seen one of the best Crappie seasons in a long time and we believe it’s due to the water reaching higher temperatures much earlier in the season. Now not only did we find an abundant of Crappies this year, but the average size being caught was larger, so what does this mean for the Shellcrackers? We believe these warmer temps will bring the Shellcrackers in earlier and that’s exactly what we are seeing.

First 2017 Shellcracker Catch

I know it’s difficult to take time out from catching large Crappies, but with the Shellcrackers being a preferred fish to eat we did not want to miss out on any early runs. We also expected that the warmer water would bring the Shellcrackers in earlier as they prepare for spawning. So my friend Ed and his wife continued to checkout their favor fishing spots for these aggressive large Bluegills.

Well we were right, it’s only the second week of March and Ed has already caught his first mess of Shellcrackers. Here is a photo of his catch this past weekend, with the Shellcrackers ranging between 10” & 12”. Now that’s not a bad size Bluegill, but these are not the largest Shellcrackers we have seen. I myself am heading down March 31, hoping to catch the prime time and experience another incredible fishing trip with a great friend.

The Best Shellcracker Bait – Freshwater Shrimp

The bait we prefer are freshwater shrimp, which can be netted or purchased. See How To Catch Freshwater Shrimp.

TIP: If you are limited on vacation days and the time to fish for this Bully of the Bluegills, then focus on the prime times of the season, one week before and one week after the full moon, early morning and/or evening, and plan your trip accordingly.

2017 Shellcracker Expectations

What are my expectations this year? I expect 2017 to be one of the best Shellcracker catches I have experienced. Why, well the Crappie season was incredible with large fish, the water levels are normal, and the early warm water is forcing the Shellcracker to start feeding aggressively much earlier. This can only equate to a Shellcracker Season like we have not seen in many years. Even if I’m wrong on my prediction you still will not be disappointed this year and don’t be surprised if you tangle into some of the largest Shellcrackers you have ever caught.

Ice Fishing For Trout – Best Rainbow Trout Catch of 2017

Catching Trout Through The Ice

Interested in catching Trout through the ice? Well here are a few tips to help you prepare and increase your odds of success. After a few ice fishing trips and following these tips you should be catching Trout on a consistent basis.

Where To Find The Trout

Catching Trout during the Winter is much different than the Summer Season. Once the water has cooled the Trout start feeding in shallow water and will work from the bottom to just under the ice. However from my experience I have found them suspended half way down or just a few inches below the ice.

Before going to the lake look over a map and find the large shallow flats with weeds. These will hold food sources such as minnows, nymphs, and larvae, which your Rainbow Trout will be after. Look for shallows (bays, inlets, coves) of 4-12 feet deep and close to drop-offs/breaks.

Note; rainbow trout spook easily so take caution. I like to drill up to 12 holes before I start working them by fishing the bottom, mid-range, and just under the ice. Your Fish-Finder will help locate the trout, except for those that are traveling 2 – 6 inches below the ice, which is where I have caught most of my Rainbows. See video! In this video we team up with a couple of young fisherman on the ice, Josh & Greg.

Inland Trout Baits To Try

Hooks with spinners are very popular for catching Trout since they are drawn to metallic flash. So try a small hook with a spinner attached and tipped with a wax worm, maggot, or some type of Gulp trout bait. You will also want to try a minnow and if that does not work just the head of a minnow, this works well for Walleyes also. A bait I like is the Rapala Jig (W3 & W5), which also works well for Walleyes, Bass, and Northerns. If a small teardrop with a spinner does not work then try a nymph hook tipped with a waxie.

Rainbow Trout Fishing Tips

A. Find a map of the lake you want to fish and find the shallow bays. Look at Earth-Cam or another type of Cam and see if you can find the weeds and drop-offs.
B. Search the internet for videos and articles on catching the type of trout you’re interested in. Take into account inland versus large body trout fishing.
C. Call the DNR and see if they will give you any tips on where to fish and what is the best fishing technique for catching them.
E. Talk to the fishermen on the ice when you get out there. Some may tell you to drop a line and figure it out, but others (True Fishermen) will help get you started. So don’t give up if rejected by the first couple of wanna-be fishermen, as this is the best and fastest way to learn.
F. Plan on 3 or 4 different baits and presentations such as; Live Minnows, Wigglers, Wax Worms, jigs, tear-drops, ect..

Ice Fishing With Tip Ups – Catching Northern Pike Using Smelt

Fishing Early Ice – Best Fishing Of The 2017 Winter Season

Fishing early ice through the first month is typically the best ice fishing, it’s also the best time for catching Northern Pike on smelt. So once Winter hits and there is enough ice on the lake to walk safely you want to be out there fishing. Why, because the fish are now swimming in schools and are still very active since the oxygen levels in the lake are high.

Why Is Ice Fishing Less Productive As Winter Prolongs

What happens to the lakes as Winter continues? The lakes no longer get the sunlight for photosynthesis thus no oxygen production from vegetation and the water cannot mix with oxygenated air since it’s under the ice. So the lake oxygen levels begin to drop, the fish become inactive, and if low enough oxygen levels the fish will start to die.

Fishing For Northern Pike

Early ice is the best time for catching Northern Pike and using Tip-Ups is one of the most common methods. But what is the best bait for catching Pike on early ice? Well most fishermen think live minnows are, but Smelt on early ice works just as good or better and you don’t have to worry about keeping it alive.

How To Use Smelt On A Tip Up

First find a store that sells Smelt (Frozen) and buy a small bag. Make sure they are not cleaned as you will want to use a whole smelt. Next place 3 or 4 into a small plastic bag or container and keep them frozen. Once you are in the car driving to the lake place one of the bags on the dash and let them thaw out.

To use with a Tip Up, take one or your smelt and place it on a L-Hook (Pike Hook). To place the smelt onto the hook you will start at the back of the bottom side, push the hook up into the smelt and work the hook forward toward the head, keeping inside the fish. Then push the barb up through the top of the Smelt’s head.

How To Set Your Tip-Up

Set your tip up 3 feet off the bottom and wait. As soon as you get a hit (flag up) grab the line and set the hook. This is one time you do not want to wait for a second run from the Northern, as it will drop the bait and not strike again.

Once the ice has been on for a month then get back to using live bait and going with the second strike for setting the hook.

Guide Series Men’s Outdoor Insulated Camouflage Twill Jacket – Review

The Best Camouflage Hunting Coat For The Price

I have found the best Camo Coat/Jacket I have ever seen when it come to price. This is perfect for the entire Archery Season.

Where To Purchase This Archery Coat

I found this coat, which they call a jacket, in Gander Mountain on sale for up to 60% off. However you do not want to purchase it at the store, since you can get a better price on-line.

What Price Can You Purchase This Camo Jacket for

This Jacket in the store was on sale for up to 60% off. However, the most it ever came down to, from its regular price of $59.99, was $39.99. So I spent a year going into two different Gander Mountain Stores to see if the price would drop lower, as I wanted to purchase another one. Finally after a year I found this jacket on the Gander Mountain website for a much better deal. The Jacket was on sale for $39.99, with $10 off, and free shipping. So the total coast; $29.99 at the door.


The Guide Series Men’s Outdoor Element Insulated Twill Jacket is built tough to withstand a variety of outdoor activities. Crafted from rugged 100% cotton twill fabric, the jacket boasts diamond-quilted insulation throughout with brushed tricot at the body and hood for extra warmth and taffeta at the sleeves for easy on and off.

Articulated elbows allow for a wider range of movement for even greater comfort with minimum noise. The Insulated Twill Jacket features a three-piece hood with draw-cord adjustment; a full-length front zipper; elastic-bound cuffs and bottom hem; and a license holder at the upper back. Bellowed front cargo pockets with hidden-snap flap closures, brushed tricot hand-warmer pockets (behind the cargo pockets), and an interior patch pocket provide ample storage for all your essential gear or camera. The Jacket is imported from China, so it is not USA made.

The jacket is not that heavy, is quite, and the cotton twill does not collect the burrs and tick-tacks like other materials do.

* Guide Series Men’s Outdoor Element Insulated Twill Jacket Item # 783321
* Rugged 100% cotton twill fabric
* Diamond-quilted insulation for warmth
* Brushed tricot at the body and hood
* Taffeta-lined sleeves for easy on/off
* Articulated elbows for added mobility

Product Review – 4.5 Stars*

I first purchased this jacket over a year ago. I like it so much I wanted to purchase another one for future usage and buy one for my two youngest sons, who enjoy Archery Hunting as much as I do. But I wanted to see if it would drop in price more before purchasing, since the sale sign in the stores said up to 60% off.

The Jacket is much larger then US sizes, most likely due to being made in China. I wear an Extra Large and had to go with a Large, which is still a little big on me.

Great for the Entire Archer Season, large enough to put layers of clothing under it, or to wear as is.

The zipper, if not seated completely down will separate, so make sure it seated entirely before zipping up. If it does separate it will take a few minutes to work it back down, but does not seen to damage the zipper.

The Jacket has plenty of pockets for gloves, hats, camera, etc..

I strongly recommend this coat for hunting in both the early and late Archer Season. I give it my thumbs up with a 4.5 Start rating.